Press-Republican

March 21, 2013

Theatre introduces Danish experimental-dance piece

By STEVEN HOWELL
Press-Republican

---- — MONTREAL — The Centaur Theatre is adding a semiautobiographical, experimental-dance piece from Denmark to its list of stage repertoire.

“Dance Me to the End on/off Love” is a unique performance-art stage work created by Danish choreographer Palle Granhoj and set to the music of Canadian icon Leonard Cohen.

“It’s basically Palle using Cohen’s work to explore some of his own issues and to look at some of the facets of his own life,” Centaur Theatre artistic director Roy Surette said. “It’s kind of a portrait.”

Surette said Granhoj has “some fun deconstructing Cohen right before your eyes.” 

The songs are interpreted by Granhoj and company, providing a surreal visual landscape, Surette added.

“I think it’s a pretty unusual piece for the Centaur in that it’s just as much a dance piece as it is a theater piece,” he said. “The fact that it really incorporates, celebrates and utilizes the words and lyrics of Leonard Cohen make it very Montreal in a way.”

Surette calls the work performance art with abstract and theatrical elements full of musicality. He references a scene showcasing nine acoustic musicians.

“So it’s as much as a concert as it is a dance piece,” he said.

As for the dance, Granhoj has dubbed his style “Obstruction Technique.”

“It’s a method where I put restrictions and obstructions on movements,” Granhoj said in a press release. “This creates new movements — where one can clearly see longing in a dancer’s expressions — whose movements can never be fixed, never be fulfilled and constantly have to be re-visited.”

Surette originally saw the work at the Juli Dans Festival in Amsterdam. He was invited to see the work by George Skalkogianni, the Granhøj Dans touring manager and a fellow Montrealer who has booked the Quebec-based dance companies La La La Human Steps and Carbone 14 to venues around the world.

“George really felt that this was something that Montreal would embrace,” Surette said. “To be honest, I first saw a video and thought, ‘This was really interesting and alternative, but maybe too off-the-wall.’ But I was so charmed by it when I saw it in full. It’s a very moving piece. Very beautiful.”

While the work doesn’t come with a full-on narrative for a stage work, Surette said neither did the successful production of “Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris.”

“So it’s closer to a musical revue than a play,” he said.

Surette has high hopes for the piece.

“My fingers are crossed,” he said. “I think the city will embrace it. And I think the Centaur audience, which is used to more of a traditional theatrical experience, may be a little bit challenged, but I hope in a good way.”

Steven Howell is the author of Montreal Essential Guide, a Sutro Media iPhone travel app available at iTunes.com.

IF YOU GO WHAT: "Dance Me to the End on/off Love." WHEN: Continues through Sunday, April 14. Most performances are at 8 p.m. (some Wednesday and Sunday performances are at 1, 2 and 7 p.m.). WHERE: The Centaur Theatre is at 453 St. Francois Xavier St. in Old Montreal. ADMISSION: Adult tickets cost $49.50. Discounts are available for seniors, those 30 and younger, students, and matinees. CONTACT: Call the box office at (514) 288-3161, or visit www.centaurtheatre.com.